How far will corporations go to make a profit? Dan Schneider reports on inBloom, a non-profit organization that is testing new cloud-based software to collect students’ information from their school records, with the purported aim of personalizing each student’s instructional materials. Although inBloom is a non-profit, it has a long list of corporate partners, including Amazon, Dell, and Scholastic. In return for their partnership these corporations will get access to students’ data with the ability to use it as they see fit.
“Unlike school officials who are trained and have specific rules and restrictions about the use of student data, these are huge companies with lots of divisions that this data would be interesting to,” according to the associate director of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, Josh Golin. “There’s no provision other than good faith that the data won’t be shared internally.”
The information inBloom intends to collect goes further than students’ school history, Schneider reports. inBloom will also access students’ personal information and include categories such as “Pregnant Teen,” “Unschooled Refugee,” “Foster Care,” and “Removed by Child Protective Services.”
inBloom is a joint venture of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation, so there is also cause to question how it may contribute to education “reform” goals that include greater reliance on standardized testing and merit-based pay, both of which are unpopular with teachers and their unions.
Leonie Haimson, executive director of Class Size Matters, an advocacy organization for smaller class sizes, has been working diligently to make parents across the country aware of what their school districts may be doing. “There’s not a single school district that’s allowing parents the right of consent, or to opt out of the program,” Haimson told Dollars & Sense.
Source: Dan Schneider, “School Data Profiteering. Data-collecting software is riling privacy and education activists.” Dollars & Sense, May/June, 2013, http://www.dollarsandsense.org/archives/wp/2013/0513schneider.html.
Student Researcher: Michelle Barnett (Indian River State College)
Faculty Evaluator: Elliot D. Cohen (Indian River State College)